I have been contacted recently by a number of my constituents regarding bowel cancer screening.
I sympathise profoundly with anybody who has been affected by bowel cancer and I pay tribute to organisations such as Beating Bowel Cancer which campaign tirelessly to help to raise awareness of the disease and provide support to sufferers.
The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme for 60-69 year olds was rolled out between July 2006 and December 2010, in which time over 7,000 cancers were detected. The programme has been extended to men and women aged up to 74 and those over 74 can self-refer for screening every two years if they wish.
Bowel Scope Screening (BSS), an additional one-off examination for men and women aged 55, is currently being rolled out across the country. However, I am aware that current guidance from NHS England states that BSS may not be offered in certain areas of England, and I appreciate that concerns have been raised about this.
I believe that investment in local screening programmes can make a real difference. Evidence from Beating Bowel Cancer shows that, when diagnosis is made early, bowel cancer can be cured in over 90% of cases.
Early diagnosis is critical to improving cancer survival. The UK National Screening Committee, which advises ministers and the NHS about all aspects of population screening, recommended faecal occult blood testing should be extended to those aged 50 to 74. I understand the disappointment that will be felt by many that the Government has not accepted this recommendation.